Wow, I can't believe it's taken the entire semester before I ever wrote an update about Bandology! That's how things go, though, I suppose. A little background first: At the ETC, each semester you do a project course, which means you are put on a project with a team of people and that's what you work on for the entire semester. Some projects are client-based, meaning the ETC is building something for some outside organization. Others are student-pitched, which is basically the students saying “Hey, we want to make this!” and then doing it.
At the end of the Fall semester, my friend and head TA approached me about joining his team for Bandology, a continuation of a student-pitched project from the spring before. I was delighted! Here is a picture of my AWESOME team...Andy, Joe, Edmundo, me and Carlos.
Bandology is a massively multiplayer online casual game about being in bands built by my team. We spent all semester setting up the technical foundation and pipeline, and iterating on designing the core game. The big experimental gameplay mechanic we were exploring this semester was the idea of Asynchronous Cooperative Gameplay.
It sounds fancy, but the idea is very simple. We wanted to make an online game where you play in a group, and where everyone feels like they're helping the team, but where people aren't playing the actual game at the same time. This spawned from our own experiences as busy graduate students. We all love games, and we love online games that you play with friends, but doing something together in World of Warcraft requires a lot of juggling of everyone's schedules. Our goal was to make a casual game that people could play on their own time, but still feel like they were contributing to the gameplay of their teammates.
After a semester of vast gameplay iterations and design work, I think our experiment is a success! Our biggest challenge has been explaining this Asynchronous Cooperative Gameplay idea to other people, for as Jesse pointed out midway through the semester, explaining experimental gameplay ideas is HARD.
I could explain more about how our game works, but it'd be easier if you just signed up for playtesting :) The game itself is a casual puzzle game, so don't be scared to give it a shot. Our beta test is coming up, so we'll need playtesters!
So, that's what I've been doing all semester, and it has been a joy, mostly due to my AWESOME teammates. I have been spoiled rotten by having such a wonderful team. We worked really well together as a creative entity, and I will miss my teammates terribly. As far as what I've done on the game itself beyond design, I did a lot of programming on the character system (loading characters, controlling animation, building the customizer, etc.)
A shout out to Dr. Shannon and the Centre CS department: one fantastic thing about working on this project was how well-designed the foundation of the game was. There are 3 programmers on my team: me, Carlos (who did all the gameplay programming) and Edmundo (who did all the web backend programming), and from the beginning we made sure to set up the system in a totally modular way. It made things a joy to work with, as we could each code away without getting in each other's way. Beyond that, this was an invaluable experience in design iteration and playtesting; a semester well-spent!
But, as things often happen at the ETC, the work is not yet done. Our goal with Bandology was to get 100% of the very basics complete, which we did! But an MMO has many features, and there is much to be developed. Our next milestone is to submit Bandology to the Independent Games Festival, around October. Weee!
Stay tuned for another big update about Game Design class. In the meantime, I am preparing for my summer internship at Insomniac!